Wednesday, August 31, 2005

M26 "Keats and Yeats Are on Your Side, While Wilde Is on Mine"

Sunday I went off to explore Buenos Aires' most exclusive neighborhood, a gated community, so to speak. I wanted to see its fabulous architecture and art. There, I met a girl so beautiful she brought tears to my eyes.

The streets are too narrow for cars, cats run at the feet of the pedestrians. It's the most elite neighborhood in town and to get in, you have to have money and know someone in the highest echelons of Argentine society. The eclectic styles of architecture run the gamut from classic Greek and Roman styles, to Italianate, Art Nouveau and Deco and mid-century modern.

I didn't go to any art museums in BA, but Recoleta was a better substitute than I could possibly imagine, especially when it came to sculpture. Every building was a work of art onto its own. Two or three levels in some cases all seeming to stretch themselves all too thin in their reach toward heaven. As beautiful as Recoleta is, it's absolutely the last neighborhood in the city I'd want to get stuck alone in a night.

And it's not because of the crime.

Recoleta is a cemetery. It's BA's most exclusive and famous cemetery and one of the city's prime attractions. The likes of Eva Peron, "Evita" and the elite of Argentina are buried here in mausoleums bigger and more ornate than most homes. Notably, her husband, Juan was not interred here. Some of them have open windows displaying racks of family coffins.
Most have glass doors and waiting rooms with chairs so you can go into the family mausoleum should you like to literally be right next to your deceased relatives' coffins. I am pretty sure that when there is a shortage of cherubs and angels in heaven, God imports them from Recoleta.

Much of it, however beautiful, seemed more a monument to vanity than memory. The rich and famous and powerful and their preoccupation with death and eternity. It seems no matter what worldly can power can buy them, they end of up dead just like the rest of us. What was equally as striking was the conspicuous absence of flowers or other evidence that the graves had been recently attended to by relatives. All that effort and no one even shows up or even bothers to remember.

There was one notable exception.

It was the most moving monument in the entire "marble orchard" as my grandmother likes to say in her thick Pawtucket, Rhode Island accent. Mahbull orchid.

I stumbled upon a beautiful, life-size bronze statue of a young woman who had died of cancer. There was a plaque with a poem in Italian dedicated to her. She seemed decidedly human and yes, sad, but not in the utter throngs of grief like so many of the grief-stricken cherubs imploring the heavens.

Now that I recall, it was the only statue of an actual deceased person in the enitre cemetery. She stands with her beloved dog. His nose shinning, as though polished, from where people pet him. Interestingly, the same could not be said for her as if she were beyond reach.

Her hand held freshly cut flowers as if in an offering to the living. As if the only antidote to grief were carried by her, by the power of her life, her beauty, her energy, her love for her family and even her dog. As if we could only be consoled by and through her and her alone. Not through god or even a combined army of bereaved cherubs and stricken angels.

As I pondered her life, tears welled up in my eyes. There was something powerful, tragic and moving in her and missing from the rest of the cemetery. Something that was able to move me, a stranger, thirty years after the death of someone I had never met.


VeritableReverie said...

Hi Brian, I started reading your blog a while ago and noticed you haven't posted in the past couple of months. Hope all is well!

BTW, I was in Mexico City on Oct. 10th during a huge rainstorm (I'm from S. Calif and was passing through after climbing Pico de Orizaba). The roads looked like rivers and the power went out in the Metro station! It didn't seem like anyone was at all worried, which made me wonder...does that happen very often?

Brian Kemler said...

hello - thanks for posting. my posts are rather erratic. i just posted a new one updating my crazy life of the last two months!

to answer your question, between june and october, el df is regularly innundated in the evenings. sometimes it's really bad and normal thoroughfares are completely flooded. it's pretty crazy. one day i rode my bike through a foot of water.

well, i hope that you enjoyed el df and mexico! drop me a line and let me know what you thought! i was out of the country for a spell, but am back. i'd love to hear about your climb!

thank you so much for reading and posted! best regards, Brian

Anonymous said...

good song! :-)

Maite said...

Hi Brian,
I think there may not be flowers in the cemetery because most of the tombs and mausoleums are very old, and I don't think people like very much to visit a grand, grandmother or someone in their family whom they never met. I would maybe, out of curiosity, visit the tomb of a relative I have never met, but I don't think I would buy flowers for him/her.
I've been to the Recoleta Cemetery and I don't recall having seen tombs of people who died recently (apart from the girl you mentioned). I may be mistaken, though. It's a large cemetery...
Anyway...I'm glad it inspired you to write about it!
(I could have written this in spanish, but i don't know wether you would have understood everything or not)